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David Trimble

(b. 1944)


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(b. 15 Oct. 1944).

First Minister of Northern Ireland 1998–2001, 2002 Born in Belfast as a Protestant, he studied law and became an academic at the Queen's University, Belfast. A member of the Orange Order, he joined the Ulster Unionist Party and became one its most outspoken, uncompromising members. As such, he led the march of the Orange Order through Dumcree in 1995, as a way of expressing Protestant loyalty towards the United Kingdom against the Downing Street Declaration. As leader of the UUP from 1995, he came to accept the need for compromise with Sinn Féin. His erstwhile hardline credentials allowed him to carry the majority of his party along in supporting the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 created the Northern Ireland Assembly. For his decisive leadership in the peace process, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with John Hume.

 Trimble became First Minister in a Cabinet that included Sinn Féin and the Social and Democratic Labour Party. He twice risked his office to force the IRA to honour its promise to decommission its weapons. In 2000, the Good Friday Agreement was suspended to forestall Trimble's resignation, and in 2001 he did resign over the issue. In each case, his political gamble paid off, and the IRA did respond by putting more of its weapons beyond use. Unease within his party against his willingness to negotiate with Sinn Féin continued. This greatly weakened his leadership position after his party was beaten by the more radical Democratic Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of 2003. Trimble lost his seat in the UK parliament at the 2005 elections, and moved to the House of Lords instead.


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